5 Tips On Writing: With Allen Johnson

Hi, I’m Allen Johnson. I come from a screenwriting background and have had several films produced as well as several plays. I also research and train in historic European martial arts, as well as stage combat, and advise and write frequently on the subject of combat, weapons and armor.
Recently, I have started working in world building and lore, and narrative writing for games.

Hooking Your Audience

Have an interesting character, give them a dynamic environment to exist in, and give them clear, definable goals, and throw high-stake obstacles at them.

Developing a Gripping Plot

Plot is a function of characters pursuing goals. It all comes down to decisions. How willing are they to do what it takes to accomplish their goals? If the characters are ruthlessly committed, and the antagonist perhaps even more ruthlessly committed, then the audience will be engaged as well.

Mastering World-Building

Think beyond the moment. The more you understand how cultures and environments evolve, the better off you will be able to duplicate that process in your worlds. People want to see worlds that feel like they are already rich with history, tradition, and mystery, prior to entering the story.

Crafting Complex Characters

Give your main characters physical, emotional, and spiritual goals, then make them resolve those issues as close to the climax of the story as possible.

Some of our most interesting and dynamic characters are ones that realize that what is broken inside them, or an idea they were wrong about, is what needs to be changed in order to be the person they need to be to finally overcome the seemingly impossible main (usually physical) goal of the story.

Creating Meaningful Choices

Ask your characters, “I’ll do whatever it takes to accomplish _____. But I refuse to do ______.” Then make them do that second thing.

Make sure that the goals of the protagonist and the goals of the antagonist are diametrically opposed. There is no scenario where both parties can get what they want. As long as there are stakes, and the audience believes the stakes are worth fighting for, then you’ll have dynamic choices for the characters, that matter.

Allen's Work and Experience

Of my work that has crossed the finish line, I’ve had the chance to work on several films, such as The Freemason, starring Sean Astin, and Resilience and the Lost Gems, featuring Don Shanks.

I’ve recently done narrative work on an indie game called Shattered Melodies which is slated for a Steam release summer 2024.

Strengths in Writing and Narrative Design

I feel that one of my strengths is to collaborate with other creatives and find the connective tissues between ideas and stories and characters. Frequently projects will bring me on with an idea of characters, or perhaps a story scenario, or even just a fun scene or two. I enjoy taking those blocks and finding ways to weave them all together into a cohesive story and fill in the gaps with lore, mysteries, supporting characters, and dynamic environments.

My Favorite Storytelling Medium

I’ve always been so attached to the cinema. Being in that dark room with a group of people and experiencing a dramatic event that is larger than life, completely encompassed by the sights and sounds, is a spectacular experience. That being said, with recent advancements in interactive games as well as all-encompassing theme park experiences, have really resonated with me as well.

A Wish for Interactive Audio Stories

With the constraints of audio-only, the challenge would be in getting a story from a highly visual medium, like video games, and have it still be compelling. The characters, their manner of speech, and interaction with each other would have to be really dynamic and interesting, just on its own.

With that, I think an interactive audio story in Naughty Dog’s Uncharted world could be very interesting. The rapid fire back and forth quips between protagonist Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan, Elena Fisher, or even Chloe Frazer, or Sam Drake, might provide the fun needed in that format. Having the adventure be more about doing the research and discovering knowledge before going off on one of their quests could work well with the limitations of audio only.

Register for our Free Writing Workshop now!

If you are interested in creating your own interactive audio story, you can apply for our free webinar! It will introduce you to our interactive story game engine, TWIST, and teach you how to use it to create interactive audio stories.

Interested in contributing to our blog series?

If you would also like to publish a blog post on our website and share your own story with interested readers, simply fill out the contact form.

About the Author
Chris Mahnke
Chris Mahnke

Christian Mahnke is the author of the most successful interactive audiobooks “Iron Falcon” and “The Magic Forrest”. He has also written branded interactive fiction stories for companies such as Disney and Audible. Currently he is stuck in the tutorial of The Witcher 2.

Share this Post